- Professor discovers parasite and names it after the famed musician
- Crustacean hides among reefs, feeds off fish that swim by
- Museum in New York will house some and may open an exhibit, professor says
It's not just anyone who gets honored by having a bloodsucker named after him.
Bob Marley, the late reggae star known for messages of peace and understanding as well as a song about shooting a sheriff, is the latest cultural icon to have a species names after him, according to a news release from the National Science Foundation.
The Gnathia marleyi is tiny crustacean that attaches itself to fish that inhabit coral reefs in the Caribbean.
Paul Sikkel, an assistant professor of marine ecology and a field marine biologist at Arkansas State University, discovered the creature and decided to honor the musician.
"I named this species, which is truly a natural wonder, after Marley because of my respect and admiration for Marley's music. Plus, this species is as uniquely Caribbean as was Marley," he said.
Sikkel describes his research in the June 6 edition of Zootaxia, a journal for animal taxonomists (folks who classify species).
The Gnathia marleyi are sneaky little critters. They hide among coral rubble or algae and ambush unsuspecting fish, infesting them. The juveniles munch away, but adults apparently skip a meal or 21.
"We believe that adults subsist for two to three weeks on the last feedings they had as juveniles and then die, hopefully after they have reproduced," Sikkel said.
Sikkel's team is studying the relationship between coral reef destruction and the parasites. The more degradation there is, the more launching pads for the bloodsuckers -- and the more fish are attacked.
You may get a chance to see these Marley creatures yourself; Sikkel and his team have sent some to the American Museum of Natural History in New York. They are discussing housing an exhibit there.
Other famous folk who have had a species named in honor of them include President Obama (a lichen), Comedian Stephen Colbert (a bug) and Elvis Presley (a wasp).